Make Your Company’s Holiday Party Merry, and Without Headaches

December 5th, 2019

‘Tis the season for celebrating with holiday parties, lunches and happy hours. Over the coming weeks, businesses will gather their teams to celebrate the holidays and the conclusion of what was hopefully a successful year. Company parties are a great opportunity to foster camaraderie, to show appreciation to staff or clients, and to celebrate your business’s success.

But there are Grinches about.  So even for this festive time, business owners have to ensure that the company party does not lead to legal problems. Try following these 5 practical tips, to allow focus on fun and to avoid headaches:

  1. Remind your team that the celebration is still a work event

Whether or not it’s in writing, you should have a code of conduct for all employees. In this “#metoo” era, it has never been more important for your policies to address sexual harassment and other problematic behavior.

Before your holiday party, send a short email to all employees reminding them that the party is still a work event, and that all rules of conduct still apply.

And if you have never communicated a code of conduct, there will never be a better time to work with your lawyer to create one and to get it out to your staff.

  1. Keep Attendance at the Holiday Party Voluntary

For parties outside normal business hours, employee participation should be entirely voluntarily. Mandatory events might trigger an obligation to pay overtime wages.  And because alcohol is often served, you should respect those employees who prefer to avoid what, to them, might be an uncomfortable event.

  1. Respect all Religions and Creeds

We live in a multicultural society where it is imperative for businesses to respect all religions and points of view. In small, close-knit groups, a Christmas party may still be just fine.  But the larger the work force, the wiser it may be to hold a nondenominational, end-of-year party.  By avoiding concentrating on any one particular faith or tradition, you are not only limiting your liability exposure, you are also insuring that no one feels excluded.

  1. Hire Bartenders or other TIPS-Trained Helpers to Serve Alcohol

You don’t have to do without alcohol for legal reasons.  But where ever there is alcohol, there will be people who go overboard.  Cconsider hiring third party bartenders or other TIPS- trained helpers ( VA TIPS )  to work your bar during your function.  These individuals are trained to handle saying no to someone who may have overindulged, and to defuse potentially volatile situations.  By comparison, using staff to man your bar could put them in a difficult position, having to choose between looking the other way or having to confront a co-worker (or even a superior).

  1. Cover Costs of Transportation

When budgeting for your company party, consider offering to reimburse your employees for using a ride service.  Services like Uber and Lyft have become familiar enough that your employees will feel comfortable using them, and the expense is quite manageable.  This can prevent difficulties like getting caught drunk driving, as well as far greater tragedies.

If you need help putting these ideas into practice, don’t hesitate to call Brad Marrs or Patrick Henry for help.  We’ll be glad to help you close out your business year on a positive note!